Medical paper ghostwriting

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The practice of an industry specialist writing a medical paper to be published in a peer-reviewed publication under the byline of a recognized researcher is called medical paper ghostwriting.

"Many of the articles that appear in scientific journals under the byline of prominent academics are actually written by ghostwriters in the pay of drug companies." Used by doctors "to guide their care of patients," these "seemingly objective articles ... are often part of a marketing campaign," the Wall Street Journal reported. [1]

The New England Journal of Medicine recently revealed that a 2000 article on Vioxx "omitted information about heart attacks among patients taking the drug. ... The deletions were made by someone working from a Merck computer." A 1999 "publications strategy" prepared for Pfizer by a WPP Group agency listed 81 proposed articles, promoting Zoloft for everything from "panic disorder to pedophilia." One physiologist hired by Elsevier's Excerpta Medica says she was asked to "slant" a 2002 paper in favor of a Johnson & Johnson drug. Many journals ask for disclosure, but say their ability to weed out ghostwriters is limited. "I don't give lie-detector tests," the Journal of the American Medical Association's chief editor told the Wall Street Journal. [2]


"Earlier this month," writes Jennifer Washburn, "Sheffield University in Britain offered $252,000 to one of its senior medical professors, Aubrey Blumsohn. According to a copy of a proposed settlement released by Blumsohn, the university promised to pay him if he would agree to leave his post and not make 'any detrimental or derogatory statements' about Sheffield or its employees. [3] For several years, Blumsohn had been complaining of scientific misconduct.

His concerns primarily revolved around a $250,000 research contract between Sheffield and the Ohio-based Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals. Blumsohn claimed that the company had denied him access to key data and then tried to ghostwrite his analysis of it." Worse still, the university acted as an enforcer for the company in its efforts to conceal data and manipulate research conclusions.[4]

A Cancer Risk Conveniently Lost in Translation

A groundbreaking public health study by Chinese doctor Zhang JianDong in 1987 was used by U.S. regulatory agencies "as evidence that a form of" the chemical chromium "might cause cancer." Ten years later, "a 'clarification and further analysis' published under his name in a U.S. medical journal said there was no cancer link to chromium." But "Dr. Zhang didn't write the clarification" - it was "conceived, drafted, edited and submitted to medical journals by" ChemRisk, a firm hired by PG&E, "a utility company being sued for alleged chromium pollution" by California residents. [5]

ChemRisk was previously paid $7 million to help "save industry hundreds of millions of dollars in cleanup costs for chromium pollution in New Jersey." ChemRisk claims Dr. Zhang signed off on the "clarification," but records show the final version was not translated into Chinese for his review. Dr. Zhang died in 1999, but his son said, "It's impossible that he would have overthrown" his earlier work linking chromium and cancer. [6]

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